Amazon’s Cloud Outage: The Impact on Cloud Computing

Yesterday saw Amazon’s cloud computing service suffer serious disruptions. This has led many people to jump up and use the outage as a confirmation to not use cloud computing. Such a view, in my opinion is not well founded or well-informed. Why do I think this? Let me try to explain.

Many high-profile services over the last few years have experienced outages such as:

  • Skype (for many days)
  • Google’s Gmail
  • Twitter is routinely unavailable
  • Facebook

The difference between these outages and the Amazon outage is that Amazon affects so many Web sites – not just one. High profile sites such as FourSquare, Reddit, Zynga, and many others were not available as a result. It is this that has provided the cloud computing skeptics with fuel for their argument. To counter this we need to consider the alternative. Would the disruption these companies suffered yesterday have been less over time if they had decided to build their own server farms or used a managed hosting company? Probably not. In fact many of the companies built on Amazon Cloud Computing may not have even existed because startup costs and speed to market would have been prohibitive without the Amazon pay per use scalability.

So, whilst the outage is highly undesirable, it is not unique to Amazon and it must be balanced against other infrastructure alternatives. What has been excellent is the way Amazon has kept their customers updated as to what the problem is and their progress in fixing it. Whilst customers will not be happy, at least knowing what Amazon is doing gives them some idea on the scale of the problem. Also, they have some of the best engineers in the world working to fix the problems.

In summary, Amazon is not alone in suffering cloud computing outages. Google with Google Apps(TM) and Google App Engine(TM) have had problems, Microsoft with Azure has too. Amazon is such big news because it is so big and hosts so many high-profile Web sites. The outage has highlighted that by adopting cloud computing, an organisation has to build a strategy that considers cloud unavailability and disaster recovery. But this is no different to any traditional computing strategy, just with cloud computing much of the technology is located in the cloud. Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing course discusses how such a strategy can be defined for organisations of all sizes. Often during the course we take an attendees organisation as a case study and highlight the risks and how they can be minimised or eliminated. If you want to find out more about cloud computing, beyond the marketing hype and often biased view of marketing materials, the course will provide you with a vendor neutral view of the technology and its application to your business.


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